Gord­han calls on Eskom board to re­think

The Mercury - - BUSINESS REPORT - Siseko Njobeni

PUBLIC En­ter­prises Min­is­ter Pravin Gord­han has called on the Eskom board to de­ter­mine a wage in­crease it could of­fer to its em­ploy­ees as the stand­off be­tween the util­ity and its work­ers con­tin­ued.

The De­part­ment of Public En­ter­prises yes­ter­day said Gord­han, who has political over­sight over Eskom, met rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) on Wed­nes­day “to un­der­stand the con­cerns from or­gan­ised labour about the wage dis­pute with Eskom and re­lated mat­ters”.

The de­part­ment said Cosatu ex­pressed con­cern about the man­ner in which wage ne­go­ti­a­tions have been con­ducted, Eskom’s in­sis­tence on a zero per­cent wage “of­fer”, and al­le­ga­tions that the Re­new­able En­ergy In­de­pen­dent Power Pro­ducer Pro­cure­ment pro­gramme was crowd­ing out jobs in the min­ing sec­tor.

Gord­han com­mit­ted to dis­cuss the re­sump­tion of ne­go­ti­a­tions with the Eskom board. “It is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the Eskom board to de­ter­mine what kind of wage in­crease Eskom can of­fer its em­ploy­ees, within the frame­work of the board’s fidu­ciary re­spon­si­bil­i­ties,” the de­part­ment said. “The Min­is­ter (Gord­han) is in no po­si­tion to in­struct the board on this is­sue.”

Eskom has so far main­tained that it could not af­ford a wage in­crease, given its precarious fi­nan­cial po­si­tion. It has said that the de­ci­sion not to of­fer a wage in­crease was part of ef­forts to set the util­ity on a path to fi­nan­cial sta­bil­ity. This, how­ever, has trig­gered the rage of trade unions, which de­mand an in­crease of up to 15 per­cent.

The de­part­ment said Gord­han had of­fered to con­vene an in­for­ma­tion-shar­ing ses­sion be­tween Eskom and Cosatu.

Protests

Ir­ri­tated by Eskom’s de­ci­sion not to of­fer a salary in­crease, the Na­tional Union of Minework­ers and Na­tional Union of Me­tal­work­ers of South Africa have threat­ened to bring the cash-strapped Eskom to its knees. The unions yes­ter­day protested at Eskom’s premises. The protests have height­ened fears of a na­tional elec­tric­ity black­out.

The power util­ity yes­ter­day said that the in­dus­trial ac­tion had af­fected power sup­ply. Ear­lier in the day, Eskom spokesper­son Khulu Phasiwe said that in­tim­i­da­tion and road block­ades were rife at most of Eskom’s power sta­tions and re­gional of­fices. He said that could com­pro­mise the util­ity’s abil­ity to keep the lights on.

Eskom said the gen­er­a­tion and dis­tri­bu­tion of elec­tric­ity across its net­work was con­strained due to the acts of sab­o­tage and in­tim­i­da­tion.

“There have been sev­eral in­ci­dents of road block­ades, at­tacks on staff, and wil­ful dam­age of elec­tric­ity in­fra­struc­ture. As a re­sult, all road coal de­liv­er­ies have been stopped for se­cu­rity rea­sons,” Eskom said. Its worst-hit power sta­tions were Hen­d­rina, Camden, Ken­dal and Arnot.

PHOTO: ITUMELENG ENGLISH/AFRICAN NEWS AGENCY (ANA)

State-owned Eskom work­ers protest at the com­pany’s Megawatt Park of­fices in Sun­ninghill, Jo­han­nes­burg, against its de­ci­sion not to in­crease em­ploy­ees’ wages this year.

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